NOVA’s OER-based General Education

Northern Virginia Community College logo

The OER-Based General Education Project was funded through a College Innovation Fund grant received from the Virginia Community College System (VCCS) in early 2013. Dr. Wm Preston Davis, Director of Instruction at Northern Virginia Community College’s Extended Learning Institute, and his staff of faculty, librarians, and instructional designers set out to create a program where students at Northern Virginia Community College (NOVA) could take one or more courses that utilize free and/or open courses materials to deliver a high quality learning experience without requiring the purchase of textbooks or other course materials. The OER courses lead to the General Studies Certificate and satisfy the first year of the Associate of Science Degree.


Goals of the Project

  • —  Create greater awareness of OER at NOVA
  • —  Help faculty to identify existing OER and create new OER content to improve teaching and learning
  • —  Offer Twelve (12) textbook-free courses Fall 2013
  • —  Make education more accessible and affordable for all learners at NOVA and throughout the VCCS by doing away with the requirement for students to purchase and rely on expensive textbooks for these courses.

Ultimately, my goal is to see this project save our students a million dollars a year while continuing to show improvements in overall student success.”  — Dr. Preston Davis

Team Designed Course Approachteam design

  • —  Faculty are the course content experts
  • —  Instructional Designers are content delivery experts
  • —  ELI Librarian is OER course material expert

“Before my course started, I got multiple emails from students who had signed up for my course, looked up what materials they had to buy from the bookstore, and thought it must have been a mistake when they were told that there was nothing for them to pay for… they were thrilled and very thankful.”  Will Hatheway, Instructor

Fall 2013 Outcomes

The following high-impact courses using only OER-based instructional materials were launched:

  • —  ART 101, 102
  • —  ENGLISH 111, 112, 125, 251
  • —  HISTORY 121, 122, 262
  • —  MATH 151
  • —  PHYSICS 201, 202

Students saved over $200, 000 in textbook costs and success rates were up significantly in most of the courses that used OER-based materials in the pilot semester.

Next Steps

ELI is currently developing a second series of OER courses that will satisfy the requirements for the Associate of Science degrees in General Studies and Social Sciences beginning Fall 2014. The subjects currently under development include:

  • Communications 100, 110
  • Economics 201, 202
  • Information Technology 115
  • Math 152
  • Physical Education 116
  • Psychology 200
  • Sociology 200

“I have experience in developing and revising the Student Development 100 course using a publisher’s text and pre-packaged online resources; and have become frustrated with the cost and the frequency in which publishers push out new editions. The opportunity to redesign … using open educational resources, allowed me to use my own expertise and creativity to create an engaging, critical thinking-based course that in my view, is the best version of the course yet. Students are exposed to a variety of reputable free resources, assignments, and assessments that all contribute to a robust learning environment at no cost to the student.”  – Kim Burkle, Instructor